Gregg Popovich must have been on a real roller coaster this year. Think about it.
His San Antonio Spurs were not that great, finishing just 33-39. Then there was/is Covid, which is hard for everyone but for a guy who is 72, it’s a bit more of a concern.
Then there was the Olympics. The team started slow, understandably, before rounding into form and winning gold again.
For Popovich, who was the last cut in 1972, it must have meant a lot, particularly given the two enduring memories of the Munich Games: the Black September attack and the controversial US loss to the USSR in basketball.
Remember too that he groused a bit about Jerry Colangelo hiring Mike Krzyzewski, a mere college coach, to take NBA guys against the rest of the world not once but three times.
He felt like that was a job for an NBA guy and from his perspective, perhaps, he’d waited since 1972.
Well, maybe he was right, maybe not. Coach K did alright. So did Pop. But K isn’t going to coach anywhere again after this year, presumably, and Popovich will be 75 and that might be pushing it even for his day job with the Spurs.
So who might be next?
We’d love it to be Rick Pitino and we’re sure the redemption angle would mean a lot to him. In a lot of ways, he’s an ideal candidate.
But if it’s not Pitino, then who?
Well, what about Juwan Howard?
The Michigan coach has done a tremendous job in a short period of time. The biggest argument against him might be just his lack of experience. He’s only been a head coach for two years. That’s kind of a skimpy resume.
On the other hand, he’s widely respected in the NBA and would have no trouble working with the players.
One potential issue: the guy who would hire him.
We think the world of Grant Hill and we’re sure he would only do what was best for the entire enterprise, but the Duke-Fab Five thing lives on. You have to think that in one corner of his mind, Hill might think...seriously? Do I have a choice in this?
It’s kind of a funny thought. No doubt Jalen Rose would have a lot to say.
One other guy worth considering: Chris Beard.
Beard has shown himself to be a superb coach, taking Texas Tech to the national championship game, a possibility that no one had seriously considered before he did it. Now at Texas, he has a much bigger platform. He’s not going away.
It’s going to be one of Hill’s first big decisions.
Of course if he decides to go with NBA coaches, he could stick with the Brotherhood and hire Quin Snyder, who has done a terrific job with the Utah Jazz.